Wicked, the Broadway musical sensation that imagined the story of The Wizard of Oz from an alternative point of view, has defied gravity to overcome The Phantom of the Opera as the second-highest grossing Broadway musical of all time. Wicked’s $1.12 billion in ticket sales have pushed the production ahead of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s (and Broadway’s longest-running musical hit) The Phantom of the Opera ($1.11 billion). Both musicals continue to run on Broadway, surpassed only by 1997’s The Lion King’s $1.38 billion recorded in the books.
The Phantom of the Opera, which opened on Broadway in 1988, would seemingly have a major advantage on Wicked which started its run in 2003, but ticket prices have risen exponentially on the must-see hits, propelling Wicked into its newfound lead. Internationally, The Phantom of the Opera retains its bragging rights at $6 billion worldwide verses Wicked’s $4.5 billion.
Wicked, with a score by Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Godpell), and a book by Winnie Holtzman (Birds of Paradise), opened at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre in 2003. Starring the powerhouse duo of Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, and under the direction of Joe Mantello, the show was nominated for a bevy of Tony Awards, securing a win for Ms. Menzel in the Best Actress in a Musical category. An eagerly-anticipated film version of Wicked is expected from Universal Studios in 2019 (tentatively).
The Phantom of the Opera has been ensconced at Broadway’s Majestic Theatre since 1988 where it first opened with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman in the leads. Under the deft direction of Harold Prince, Phantom would win the Tony Award for Best Musical. A 2004 film version starred Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler, but failed to ignite at the box office.
Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals and maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.